LETTER #3 With Love From Prison Series
The following Stories From The Field editions will be a series of letters written by incarcerated men in the United States. These letters were penned as a response to FREEDOM FROM WITHIN , Foundations For Life - Unleash The Masterpiece, a program developed by CCWM Missionaries Cliff and Sue Parrish to teach how to live Godly principles in such a way that brings contagious life transformation, even within the walls of a prison. The letters are then used as forwards to future books published. Cliff and Sue are taking Freedom From Within to the prisons of the United States and possibly to a church near you. This is Letter #3
"I thank God for allowing this even to become a book that many will share the benefit as I'm sharing with you.
As you read these pages, you'll notice that each chapter is so interesting very captivated with a spiritual power that moves you to continue reading on.
I am so blessed to have inside my life my beautiful wife. She is without a doubt a true woman of God.
I am incarcerated, and yet she is still inside my corner even though I cheated on her.
And out of that product my son was conceived. Adultery.
I see the characteristics in her which I've learned from these classes as examples:
Gentle Spirit, Loving Affection, Effective Communication, to name a few.
She added value to my life which allowed me to be honestly more compassionate.
I'm 52 years old, as I mentioned earlier, I'm incarcerated.
I'm not trying to brag about my wife, but to reflect on how precious a woman's worth is.
I'm writing the forward for this book because so many individuals today are either in my shoes, been in my shoes or, most importantly, I pray, can avoid being in my shoes.
Inside the book, you'll learn about blind spots, which are areas you don't see yet others do.
Also, it builds a respectable persons spiritual growth and a mental growth at the same time, producing morals, values, and principles in which we see certain changes from day to day and person to person.
We all need someone. We were never intended to be alone.
I've grown to understand this is true while attending these classes:
Foundations For Life, Taking the Lead and Thriving Teams; which has allowed me to flourish and grow into someone special.
As Mr. Cliff says UTM "Unleash The Masterpiece - that is within every one of us! We are very unique individuals.
As you read each chapter in itself you'll notice transformation immediately and become attached to this book as if this book was personally for your eyes only; allowing your true identity to reflect and shine out of your personality whether on the job, in school, gatherings, family outings, etc.
The Masterpiece inside of you will be unleashed!
May God bless you and yours always. Stay encouraged.
I'm very thankful for these classes, books, materials, etc.
It has truly given my life more meaning and my family, friends, and especially my wife has told me what changes I have made since taking these classed.
Most of all applying what I've learned another quote Mr. Cliff would say: "Live it to give it!"
Thank you very much for taking your time out to read and become apart of what you just read.
God bless and stay encouraged always.
Peace be with you!
Author: SHARI TVRDIK
When I first met up with Cliff and Sue Parrish again, after so many years away in Mongolia I couldn't help but sit there in tears.
The couple was overflowing with LIFE GIVING stories of transformation.
While I was working in the slums of Mongolia, the Lord had placed my U.S. friends in prison.
Honestly, it was the last place I would have imagined them landing.
When I left for the mission field in 2009 Cliff was headed to the top.
He was an entrepreneur.
Everything he did was innovative, driven and powered with success.
He was the kind of guy who invited you out for ice-cream and left you with the feeling that ice-cream was the bait.
His real goal was to discover what you were created to do with your life.
It was over ice-cream, or maybe it was apple pie, that Cliff did just that to my husband Troy and I in 2002.
We were on a couples date with Cliff and Sue and very naive to the caliber of couple we had chosen to hang out with on a Friday night.
After a brief bout with small talk Cliff asked,
“What do you want to do with your life?” (emphasis on the want).
Unaware that he had poignantly thrown the fun right out of the room and shot to the heart, Cliff stared at us across the table, waiting for our reply.
We were a young couple who had walked a long and tired road.
Cliff and Sue were unaware Troy and I had fought like maniacs before the date because we were behind on bills again.
Christmas was coming and there was never anything left for the dream holiday we were waiting for.
My mind filled with a quick sarcastic reply to Cliff’s question,
“I want to pay my bills and get along with my husband.”
However I wisely kept those words inside with a bite of pie.
Saved by the full mouth, my husband Troy was left to answer.
“I want to help people.” Troy said.
“Children. I want to build an orphanage or work with really wounded people.”
I choked my bite down and grabbed some water.
Troy was a carpenter.
He worked from 4am until after ten some nights.
Our goals were limited to TODAY.
I had never once heard that my husband had a hearts desire to “help people,” or to “build an orphanage.”
Who was this man?
Then, baited and hooked, Cliff rebutted ,
“No you don’t.”
A little surprised by his directness we both sat facing Cliff and Sue as if we had accidentally ended up in a therapy session.
And then he reeled us in.
“We always do what we want to do.
It’s in our nature.
So if you wanted to help people, build and orphanage or work with wounded people,
We went on to defend ourselves a for a bit.
We have four kids.
We’re not really qualified.
We don’t even know any orphans.
We haven’t paid our phone bill this month.
On the way home Troy and I talked about his audacity.
But, that evening stayed.
It stayed somewhere deep inside and began to do it’s work.
The Lord had much more to teach us, but that evening opened Troy and I up to an idea that perhaps God had the ability after all to use even us, to do something maybe a little bit out of the box with our life.
Our thinking changed.
Maybe our want did as well.
We left for the Mongolian mission field seven years later.
My husband did build an orphanage and so much more.
He ended up directing a humanitarian organization and helped a whole lot of wounded people. I ran a shelter for street girls and we planted a church among an un-reached people.
I can trace our ministry back to some pie, and Cliff and Sue Parrish.
And now, nearly seventeen years after that awkward evening Cliff and Sue were in prison.
How did that happen?
Cliff could have done anything.
I imagined him inspiring those at the top to WANT what God wants.
Instead, he and Sue had made the decision to leave his successful business world and walk into the world we all avoid, to the place where people go who have messed up so badly our society has to lock them away.
“Every single day there is a story to tell.” Cliff said.
He was softer now.
Life had curved his edges a bit.
There was a joy behind his eyes and I couldn’t help tearing up in the presence of Cliff and Sue in awe of what God had done.
They told me a story of man they met in prison years ago.
“We liked him.” Cliff told me.
“We gave him money, a job, a home when he got out.”
The story ended with a twist that caught me in the gut.
“He committed suicide.” Cliff said.
“I recognized there had to be a better way to reach people than simply lifting them above their physical circumstances, more was needed.“
Cliff and Sue had gone forward from the loss to developed a course which they called, Foundations For Life, building a foundation from Biblical principles to rescue even the most hopeless man. They began taking their course into US prisons and were profoundly moved by the effect God’s principles had on people.
“People are being TRANSFORMED by God’s word and some don’t even realize it because it’s not overtly ‘Christian’.” Cliff shared.
“Then, they are taking it out of prison and to their families.” Sue said.
So it’s contagious. I thought.
Cliff and Sue were invited into prisons which were known to keep outsiders away.
They were sought after because the results were already coming in. Results beyond what Cliff and Sue themselves had even imagined.
Foundations For Life worked.
“If we reduce recidivism we all win.” Cliff said with a smile on his face.
“Recidivism?” I asked.
“The tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend.” Cliff educated me.
“I’m motivated by the fact that these guys will be moving into our communities when they get out, what kind of neighbors will they be?”
I asked Cliff and Sue if I could read a story of one of the prisoner's life transformed.
Sue popped open her laptop and took me to a file where there were currently four hundred and sixty stories. Stories the prisoners wrote about themselves.
Letters from prison.
“These are the ones I’ve been able to get on file, there are more I haven’t typed up yet.”Sue said, her eyes all alight with excitement.
Cliff and Sue are Cup of Cold Water missionaries now.
The financial success they were headed towards was a wonderful blessing but this is what they WANTED to do.
They wanted to use their gifts and talents to go beyond their years here.
They wanted to listen to what God WANTED for them and move into that.
“Do you think this would work outside of prison?” I asked.
I had people coming to my mind who I knew would be deeply impacted by a Foundations For Life Course and I would rather them NOT have to go to prison to discover it.
“Absolutely.” Cliff replied.
He went on to tell me how during the development phase of Foundations For Life he had chosen a wide range of people to “test” it on.
One was a highly respected Psychologist whose wife had exclaimed, “This has been the best thirteen weeks of my life.” referring to the impact the course had on her husband.
The problem was, there are only two of them right now. Cliff and Sue Parrish. They were focusing in on the prisons with more offers to share the course throughout the state.
This time, I went on to pressure them.
“But I really believe our community right here could benefit from this, would you consider teaching it?”
They said yes….and then they asked me for ice cream.
Pray for me!
The Foundations For Life Course begins November 5, 2018 right here in Sheridan, IL.
If you have been moved by this story and believe you or someone you love needs transformation (don’t we all!) then please register soon. The link to register is below this article.
The following Stories From The Field editions will be a series of letters written by incarcerated men in the United States. These letters were penned as a response to FREEDOM FROM WITHIN , Foundations For Life - Unleash The Masterpiece, a program developed by CCWM Missionaries Cliff and Sue Parrish to teach how to live Godly principles in such a way that brings contagious life transformation, even within the walls of a prison. Cliff and Sue are taking Freedom From Within to the prisons of the United States and possibly to a church near you. This is Letter #2
"When I first started this class, I was not the type of person who felt comfortable speaking in front of others, specifically crowds, and then I learned how to properly communicate through Foundations For Life. It was then that I started to learn how to understand how to speak publicly in front of others. I also learned how to communicate by listening, using the right tone, and using the right words. It has also given me the right spiritual connection with God, and it has shown me how to really establish a foundation in my household, and with any team that I am trying to develop or be a part of. I am glad that my brother Cliff started this class because he has helped me with this class more than any college degree. This class has shown me how to look within myself in ways I didn’t know how to. I have been able to identify issues that I never knew that I had until I was able to discover myself, and my own issues, through
this class. I have become a better man to my family and my female companion and most of all – God and myself. Foundation For Life is the best thing that has happened to me."
"This class has shown me how to look within myself in ways I didn't know how to."
VISIT US NEXT WEEK FOR LETTER #3
The following Stories From The Field editions will be a series of letters written by incarcerated men in the United States. These letters were penned as a response to FREEDOM FROM WITHIN , Foundations For Life - Unleash The Masterpiece, a program developed by CCWM Missionaries Cliff and Sue Parrish to teach how to live Godly principles in such a way that brings contagious life transformation, even within the walls of a prison. Cliff and Sue are taking Freedom From Within to the prisons of the United States and possibly to a church near you.
"I'm here to tell you that you are of value. You are worth investing time in. I don't care what you've done to get here. It's none of my business. I am here to show you how to unleash the masterpiece that is within you."
These are words I will never forget.
Cliff Parrish, a man I see as a mentor, said these words to a whole class.
I felt as if he was directly talking to me and really he was. I had never heard these words in that way. Let alone spoken to me.
I am 27 years old.
I have been incarcerated since I was 18 years old.
Fatherless home with a loving mom, trying to play both roles while battling her own demons. She is a wonderful mom but just let some things set her very far off course. I grew up hopping around. Never really had a stable father figure except for my Uncle. It was always easy for me to do wrong never right. Through all of this, I never was really taught to have a foundation in my life. It was always "Do good in school, and you can do what you want."
And I did just that most of the time.
Luckily, I ended up in prison. While many people consider this a curse, it has honestly the best thing (Besides my daughter) that has ever happened to me. If it weren't for this, I would have never encountered Foundations for Life.
When I first took "Foundations for Life" I had just accepted Jesus and was trying to get my feet wet into whatever seemed faith-based. I had no idea what I was in for! That was life changing Foundational framework for my life.
Principles and values. Meaningful impact. Authentic friendship. These are just a tiny taste of what you will find in this book.
If you believe in transformation and are seeking it, this is for you! If you think you are of value and even more so if you don't this is for you! Just believing isn't enough.
1Peter 1:13 states "Therefore prepare your minds for action..." Keyword Action, you see, if there is no action behind your belief is there a belief?
Foundations For Life has greatly impacted my life. Every day I walk this beautiful earth.
I am revealing the masterpiece to myself and the to the world though I fail, I am still as Ephesians 2:10.
VISIT US NEXT WEEK FOR LETTER #2
Author SAM DONHOWE
co/authored by Shari Tvrdik
It was Sunday evening and the service at the La Paz God With Us Church was almost over.
I was thinking about what the afternoon would hold for me when all of a sudden the Pastor mentioned my name:
“we have a donation of clothing and shoes that needs to be delivered next Saturday to a village near Puno (southern Peru). The village has been affected by heavy frost this winter. If anyone wants to sign up for a brief trip to send relief to these communities, please talk with Sam”.
I stood up and waved as if I knew what the pastor was talking about, while silently unsure of what was happening and not knowing what the Lord had in store for me.
I spent the next week coordinating the arrangements for the trip (with all the flaws of Bolivian logistics),
I found out a little more about the situation in the region that we were about to visit.
It was a precarious time for the people living there.
Livestock, mainly llamas, had died due to the frost. There were children and the elderly in these communities who had taken sick with pneumonia.
The following Saturday we gathered the small team of five Bolivians and two Peruvian volunteers. After a 7 hour uncomfortable van ride our team arrived to the village of Crucero, which lies three hours north of Lake Titicaca.
This was absolutely not where I had planned to be when I arrived to church six days ago a beautiful Sunday morning.
However, I was thankful for the unexpected.
As we began to hand out the medicine, Christian literature, shoes and clothing to the people, I was reminded of what I read in the Bible during my quiet time earlier that day.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 34-40
The scripture which had been simply in words read in the morning, became living letters to me that afternoon.
I looked for Jesus.
I should see Jesus in these people and care for them as if they were Jesus himself.
So many times I want to see Jesus in the important people but instead I must train my eyes to see Jesus in the needy and weary.
Perhaps we would run to these uncomfortable places,
to these hurting people,
if we truly believed His words.
Author HEATHER VELVET JOHNSON
The air lifted us up. One big airplane separating me from what was to what is.
The end of my mission work in Mongolia.
As with the actual 4 year Mongolian journey, the travels themselves were full of ups and downs (literally). In those 23 hours I prayed, “God please let me not miss this flight” more times than I had on any flight before.
The mini Mongolian airport is nothing like American international airports and the “get there 2 hours early” rule doesn’t apply. The first round of “God, please get me on this flight” prayers started from when I walked to the check in counter late, a mere 30 minutes before take off.
The lady behind me at security was in the same frazzled state that I was in, as she was also late for the same flight. Both of us got stopped at security and as the security was going through our things there was a mix-up and she ended up walking away, not only with her laptop, but mine as well! Thankfully we called her back in time and got it sorted out.
My carry on bag weighed almost as much as my suitcase and was bigger than allowed. But because I lived in Mongolia for 4 years, I had learned the art of “pretend it’s fine and just do it.” I got a few eye rolls from flight attendants but somehow fit it in on each flight!
When you’re traveling with your life in your hands, you do what you gotta do!
At customs I almost cried when the official stamped my passport and told me goodbye.
I cried the whole time during take off.
I was able to sleep for a little at the Beijing airport and woke up confused (and drooling) thinking that I was still in my bed in Mongolia.
At Chicago I prayed those prayers again, wondering if I would be able to make my final flight with only 2 hours to transfer between international and domestic. Thankfully I did.
I arrived as scheduled and have been half asleep and numb ever since as jet lag has hit me hard this time. A 12 hour time difference is no joke!
I unpacked yesterday and now what?
I went through the vortex of worlds and all proceeds as normal. Life in Mongolia continues without me, life in Atlanta has continued without me. The earth didn’t shake when I touched down. The only one spinning is me.
The last 6 months in Mongolia were beautiful. This has been the year of pain for me in every regard, yet I’ve found so much beauty in the painful places.
Goodbyes are heartbreaking but beautiful and everyone does them differently. For some, they were too painful. Some people that I was closest to, drew away or didn’t say goodbye. Some said their goodbyes days or weeks before the day of departure, knowing that that on the day of it would be too painful. I heard apologies and thanks for the first time. Some who seemed stoic become incredibly tender and some tenderhearted became strong hearted. Some announced their thanks and goodbyes publicly in front of others, some through letters, dance, pictures, song and private conversations.
Brave hearts. That’s what they were.
Many people have told me that I’m brave for living alone in the slums of Mongolia and for doing the things that I’ve done. It’s a nice compliment but I don’t see it as true. To be brave is to overcome fear, but I haven’t felt fear.
What is brave is how I’ve been loved. I’ve been loved by so many young and old brave hearts. Nearly every child that I’ve loved and have been loved by had already experienced loss or abandonment yet they opened their heart to me. They loved me so much and I am overwhelmed by their bravery to love again and to love deeply. Their families, teachers and foreigners come and go but they love again and again.
Now that I’m in this new journey may I have that same brave heart.
May I fearlessly love again.
May I be brave and open up my heart to new loves and possibilities.
May I love and invest just as much in my home country as I did in my foreign home.
May I see the beautiful in the painful places.
Author ERINN BORG
Erinn Borg is the Cup of Cold Water Ministries short term mission trip scholarship recipient from 2017/2018. She traveled to Haiti with her High School Superintendent and other students from Parkview Christian Academy. Here's what Erin has to say about her experience as a learner in Haiti.
I've been to Haiti twice with two drastically different experiences both of which made me fall even more in love with the country and its people.
The first time I went to Haiti was the first time I had ever been out of the country and I was terrified but thoroughly excited to see what God had in store.
We spent the whole time at and around Good Shepherd Orphanage.
I and many others had our first street ministry experience and every single one of us ended up in tears as we witnessed the love of God in people who lived such different lives than us. I fell in love with our translators and the children at the orphanage, many of whom spoke very little to no English, and I promised myself that I would be back.
This year we almost didn’t get to go to Haiti, there just weren’t enough people interested and me, Hannah, and JD (my team mates) cried together at the news that Hannah and I would not get to be reunited with the people that we missed so dearly and that JD would not get to be introduced to these precious people.
Shortly after, however, my team leader and high school superintendent, Ms. Benson, came to the three of us and said that if we still wanted we could go with her but it would be drastically different from what we had experienced before; we all agreed immediately.
When we got to Haiti, as warned, everything was different.
We spent only a day at Good Shepherd with another group and then we were off to the mountains to help at Alpha and Omega School.
Even though we were warned, Hannah and I struggled at first with adjusting but quickly realized that we couldn’t be selfish, we were not in Haiti for us we were there for God to do His work through us.
Once we embraced that truth we fell in love all over again with a different side of Haiti and with new people.
We saw the city life our first time in Haiti, but it was the rural life we were introduced to the second time.
On our last day Ms. Benson decided she wanted us to see two other sides, the richest and poorest of the country so we had a balanced view of the nation we had been spending our week in.
We spent the whole day driving and what we saw was breathtaking.
I'm grateful Ms. Benson gave us this opportunity.
If I were to take one lesson from that day it would be this: God touches everything, Christianity is not just for the U.S.A., just because others' lives are different and plagued with different problems does not make them less beautiful. We are made in God’s image and that image is amazing whether it is poor or rich, sick or healthy.
That is why I go to Haiti, because I see God there. He loves those people and I too have come to love them.
Thank you to Cup of Cold Water Ministries for the financial donation to help ME GO where God called me to serve this summer 2018.
Author HEATHER VELVET JOHNSON
Two or three times a month I wash my clothes
(I know, it’s embarrassing how infrequent).
The reason why I do it so seldom is
It’s a physical hassle
I’m suspicious of whether or not my clothes actually become cleaner.
My friend referred to our washing machine once as “the clothing agitator”
In America (or anywhere where there is running waters) most washing machines have a
wash, rinse, spin and drain cycle.
Here there are 15 minutes of agitation.
No rinse, no drain and “spin” is in a separate compartment that you manually have to transfer everything to.
Any rinsing has to be done manually in a separate bucket, though usually I just add a couple of scoops of water in before the spinning.
At the end the dirty water has to be drained and dumped into the toilet outside.
Because there isn’t any rinse cycle I feel that I’m just adding soap to dirt and mixing it around Adding a fresh laundry smell to still dirty clothes.
The funniest thing is that usually I think I do a fairly good job of washing…
Until I visit America.
Then I realize that my fresh smelling clothes don’t smell so fresh
(More like I rolled around at a petting zoo and then went to work at a coal mine),
And my white clothing isn’t quite so white as I thought it was In my 4 years in Mongolia God has put me through the “agitator," getting the dirt to fall out.
Sometimes I wonder, am I worse than I was before I came to Mongolia?
I’ve seen things come out of my heart that I never knew were inside.
But the thing is, all of it was already inside.
It just took Mongolia to “agitate” it out.
Like my clothes being shockingly dirtier than I thought
Inside my heart was also much worse than I thought.
Doing laundry in America, I don’t get the “privilege” to see how dirty my clothes really are.
I put them in the machine, close the door, and 45 minutes later open the door to clean clothes.
But here, I have to get my hands dirty, draining the murky water
Feeling its weight
Dumping it out.
In America, I had the same stuff inside, I just wasn’t in circumstances where I could get a close view of my true condition
So take heart.
When it seems like you are far worse than you could have imagined.
when it seems like you’re spinning in murky water
It might mean that the agitation is a cleansing process
Removing the dirt,
If I want my clothes to be especially clean, I have to put new water in for each cycle
I usually don’t and reuse the same water for 2 or 3 loads because it uses so much water and requires more work of draining and dumping.
And for us, if we really want to be healed of the muck inside
We will have to feel its weight
And dump it out
Away and UN-retrievable
Over and over again.
The final step is to hang my clothes up to dry
No dryer here except the sun
And sometimes after exhausting heart work, we too have to just wait
Wait and let the Son do the rest.
The five mile drive from our street girls' shelter to the local cafe was especially frenzied that day.
Mongolian traffic is challenging. Let's just say It can make a missionary not very missionary(ish).
One lane highways can quickly melt into four lanes and any display of weakness or hesitation is noticed by your fellow sojourners otherwise un-lovingly known as traffic piranhas .
To keep my cool I let my mind wander.
I thought of my dad back in the USA and imagined how proud he would be of his country girl driving in these crazy city streets. He used to worry about me on the road, even after I got married and had children of my own he'd often check my tires or the level of my engine oil when I stopped over for a visit.
Lost in thoughts of my own father and now solidly stuck in traffic I began to sing the new Chris Tomlin song to myself,
"You're a good good father, it's who you are, it's who you are...and I'm loved by you..."
"Shari," my passenger piped up speaking in Mongolian,
"what is good good father?"
Her question sat juxtaposed against my beautiful life, my kind and concerned father...and her painful story.
My passenger was also one of our toughest and newest shelter girls.
She had suffered in ways I'd never understand.
Her father was a drunk abuser who disappeared before her first cry.
From that first cry forward there was a trail of rejection, abandonment and loneliness that formed a crooked line all the way to this moment in my car. She was on the verge of losing her place in our shelter because of her refusal to stop bullying the younger girls.
She had so much anger.
We were headed to the cafe, just her and I, to talk about her future.
There were two distinct paths she could take. One would lead to life and the other.....
I looked at her beautiful face through the rear view mirror.
She didn't speak English, but she listened so well.
She had asked me what the words I was singing meant.
"What is good good father?"
Why had I sung THAT song? I scolded myself.
Explaining the words would heap insult to injury, and then I remembered I was a missionary.
It may sound silly but often I could forget.
In the middle of the mess, the traumatized children and the stress of it all I could prioritize the cause for the Gospel forgetting that I was indeed called here as an ambassador for Christ first.
Before all else.
EVEN Before the physical needs, there was the spiritual being waiting for a life raft.
I began to translate the words first,
"I've heard a thousand stories of what they think you're like
But I've heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you're pleased
And that I'm never alone
You're a good good father
It's who you are,
And I'm loved by you, it's who I am"
The translation drifted into her mind with the suspected affect, a reminder of what was not in her life, the huge missing piece of the puzzle....parental love.
And then with the help of my dear sweet translator, I shared the hope.
The song was not about a man.
It wasn't about a father here on earth.
"I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching
For answers only you [God] provide
'Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word
You're a good good father
It's who you are,
And I'm loved by you, It's who I am."
And right there packed tightly into traffic we talked about her Heavenly Father THE good Father who would never leave her or break her heart. THE good Father who LOVED her, who could indeed handle every last drop of her anger.
"Because you are perfect in all of your ways
You are a good good Father. "
Before we reached the cafe we had reached the point of our meeting.
"I want to teach the song to all the girls, " she said.
"I want them to know."
Author: Shari Tvrdik
The following is an excerpt from a letter submitted to Little Pink House of Hope, written by Shari Tvrdik, Cup of Cold Water Ministries missionary to Mongolia.
“Of course,” I laughed to myself.
Of course Dr. Jeanne is a red head.
Only a red head would travel to the Mongolian slums with stage 4 cancer.
I knew red heads, more on that later.
It took grit for Dr. Jeanne to come to my aid on the other side of the world.
Grit and courage.
Dr. Jeanne came at a time in her life when her days were important.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by her gift of days, to me, a complete stranger.
She came because I needed a psychologist .
Well, not me actually, at least not right then.
An entire nation needed a psychologist.
I had been working in the slum district of Mongolia for six and a half years as a missionary to the suffering poor, and especially the street child. It became obvious to me that the greatest need surrounding me, apart from Christ, was mental healing.
Trauma was everywhere but there was nowhere to go for help of this kind.
The problem was that psychology was yet an underdeveloped field in Mongolia. As much as we wanted to help and heal the children, we were simply not equipped to handle the sizable pain they needed to work through in order to overcome and thrive.
I imagined the miracle first, because that is where everything beautiful first springs from.
Faith is something first hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1)
I "hoped for" an experienced psychologist to come to Mongolia (for free) because we had no funding to pay for it. She would train our psychologist in trauma therapies, our psychologist would begin to reach the broken hearts and minds of the children and the nation would be turned right side up.
But it wasn’t.
What experienced psychologist would want to spend her time and money traveling to the unpopular destination of the Mongolia slum district?
It looked bleak.
And then the miracle unfolded in the most unexpected way.
“Shari, I’ve got her!” It was Cup of Cold Water Ministries Director Dan Hennenfent, emailing me from the USA.
“Her name is Dr. Jeanne, she has thirty years of experience as a psychologist specializing in trauma therapies especially with children”
My heart jumped inside my chest.
“Here’s the catch” he wrote.
“She has stage four breast cancer and traveling might be a challenge, but she is willing to go for it anyway.”
The world muzzled my hopeful soul.
I thought of my mom, the first red head I'd ever loved.
The mammogram machine.
That look in my dad’s eyes.
Her last breath.
My sisters sobs.
We had all stood outside the house together. Circled up at sunset because that’s when she left us. The setting sun glowing up the yellow autumn trees.
What had just happened to us?
I hate cancer.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to bring her here.” I typed out to Dan.
“It’s dangerous. We do not have reliable doctors or hospitals.”
And then I added with my mind made up, “please thank her for considering it.”
I hit SEND and felt the sadness.
It was Dr. Jeanne who replied.
It is on my bucket list to give something of myself to someone who needs it. I’d like to come.”
A few months later, against all my better judgment and despite my fears, I stood waiting for Dr. Jeanne outside the arrival gate in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia,
The red hair hit my heart.
I loved her immediately.
I held her close when I greeted her, like I had found a treasure.
I squashed down the what if’s about the coming two weeks and chose to entertain the idea of what a miracle Dr. Jeanne's arrival truly was.
Dr. Jeanne outworked me in those two weeks. She had a plan and she didn’t want to waste time. I could blame her cancer for the naps she took each day, but when she slept I slept too, from the sheer mental exhaustion of her many classes and trainings.
She blew my whole team away away, so much so, that I often forgot about her cancer.
When I hugged her goodbye I was without words. How could I express to her what her gift of days had meant to us?
Dr. Jeanne’s short term mission work in Mongolia reminds me of the planting of a forest.
The work to make the ground just right, the toiling and the tilling, the planning, or perhaps one never purposely plants a forest, perhaps it starts with a simple seed.
Her plane left the runway taking her from those seeds and returning her to her family in the USA. She left Mongolia with the same kind of hope I had as I "imagined" her arrival.
Faith, the substance of things first hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
I imagine again, one day, long after we are all gone, a lush forest will be there.
I wonder, will anyone know about the small redhead from the United States who gave from what little she had to spare to come and push those first seeds into the hard soil?
Children will be healed from the inside out. Dr. Jeanne left a legacy.
She taught me through those weeks in Mongolia that it is possible for your darkest hour to hold the greatest gifts you have left to give.
Dr. Jeanne told me about the Little Pink House of Hope as we traveled from one meeting to another on a rare hot afternoon in Mongolia. It was an organization which awarded dream vacations by the sea to people in various stages of cancer. They provided all the food, housing, entertainment and even doctors and nurses so that the families could create a beautiful memory together.
“I’m not a water girl.” She giggled.
“I’m not one who likes to get in the water but oh,” and here she paused looking out the car window. I watched Dr. Jeanne as she slipped away somewhere far from the dusty streets of Mongolia.
“Oh how I love to just look at it, the big wide ocean, and feel my smallness. Somehow it makes me feel safe to be so small.”
She told me how she would love to bring her three children to see the ocean one day. She wanted them to know it, the bigness, the whole of the sea in front of them.
I imagined her standing by the ocean, telling her children how small they were in the Great arms of God.
I decided that day I wanted to try to help Dr. Jeanne get there.
I have returned to the United States.
Although I don't have cancer, I do have a bucket list and one of the things on that list is to write to you about this amazing women, in hope she may be awarded your vacation by the sea.
Yesterday, I asked Jeanne to come over so I could interview her and write this story.
I hugged her without that red hair, for it was all gone now. She still felt like a treasure in my arms.
“I’m not afraid to die, “ she said.
“I just don’t want to leave my children.”
Mei Mei, Jackson, Makaia all three adopted by Jeanne because that’s the woman she is.
“Why do you want this vacation Jeannie?” I asked her.
She replied, “I want to make a memory a really beautiful cancer free memory.”
And then she smiled, “But even if it’s not cancer free, it will be a memory of all of us small by the sea together, and that’s enough”.
And this is the way I can help her, to tell the story of Dr. Jeanne. On behalf of the street children in Mongolia, and a missionary who needed a miracle, would you kindly consider choosing Dr. Jeanne Wysocki for a Little Pink House of Hope.
There is no soul more deserving in our eyes. Sincerest Gratitude,
Dr. Jeanne Wysoki and her family were awarded the Little Pink House of Hope vacation in April 2018.
She showed them the sea.
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